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July 31, 2014
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you Gerald (Reed).
Hello Blacks in Government! I hope you’ve had a great week. Congratulations Darlene (Young) to you and all your team for putting on such an inspiring and informative conference.
“Dream Big, Train Well and Emerge to Greater Heights.” What a perfect theme for your Institute. The work BIG has done since its founding nearly 40 years ago has been groundbreaking. Your mission to make sure African American employees at all levels of government can maximize their career opportunities is one I totally agree with. And events like this annual meeting provide just the training, networking and mentoring your members need.
Before I start my formal remarks, the first thing I want to do is say thank you. Thank you all for your service to America. Whether you work for state government, local government or are part of the 2 million strong Federal workforce, I salute your dedication, your talent and your leadership.
I want to talk to you today about the work we are doing at OPM to hire and retain an engaged, inclusive and diverse Federal workforce. I’ll explain some of the initiatives we are developing to strengthen our Senior Executive Service and especially to make our leadership ranks more diverse. And finally, I want to give you my perspective on why mentoring and being advocates for fellow employees is so important.
At first glance, when you look at the number of African American employees in the Federal government, we’re doing pretty well. African Americans make up more than 18 percent of the Federal workforce while they comprise about 12 percent of the total U.S. labor force. But when you look deeper into the numbers, they show that African Americans make up just under 11 percent of the Senior Executive Service. This is not good enough.
Let me be clear, my insistence on a Federal workforce that looks like the America we serve is not just about the numbers. It’s about our absolute need to tap into the wisdom, the talent, the experience and the perspectives of people from every community in this nation. I believe strongly that we must have diversity at every level of Federal service, particularly in the SES.
We’re doing something about it. As part of the President’s Management Agenda, we are streamlining and enhancing the processes we use to hire and recruit for the SES. We are creating a special interagency work group to look at everything from how to reduce the administrative burden for applicants to how we can best attract talent. We will identify any barriers that exist for African Americans entering the SES. And we will work to remove them. We are developing a better onboarding model for agencies so that new SES members will have the support they need to hit the ground running. The onboarding program will include continued support as new executives tackle the challenges of leadership.
A big part of bringing more diversity into the executive ranks is making sure that we have a diverse bench to draw from. We need to make sure that we increase African American representation in those GS14 and GS15 feeder positions that put employees on the track to senior executive leadership. And we will hold managers accountable for making sure that they look at a diverse group of candidates when it comes to development and promotions. Every agency in the Federal government is going to be responsible for doing a deep dive of their employment data to figure out how best to ensure that they have diversity in their feeder positions. We must make sure that all employees have a realistic opportunity to move from the entry level to mid-level and from the mid-level to senior executive positions.
I’m excited about a new management tool we just unveiled that is designed to help managers create the culture of engagement we expect in our Federal workforce. Called Unlocktalent.gov., this interactive web-based tool will help managers thoroughly analyze the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey data and other information to help them create a culture of employee engagement and inclusion.
OPM will provide agencies with more than 13,000 individualized unit reports so managers can tell where the problems are, where they need to better engage and help their employees’ progress. And we will begin to get the 2014 EVS results out this month, a month earlier than usual.
We need to make sure that someone who begins Federal service at the entry level gets the training, the support and the mentoring that helps them reach the executive levels. We’re starting young. In February, the President launched My Brother’s Keeper. This initiative, aimed at boys and young men of color, is guided by the principle that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed. The President said when he launched the program that one’s ability to get ahead should be determined by hard work, ambition and goals, not by the circumstances of one’s birth. As part of My Brother’s Keeper, we at OPM are committed to creating a diverse pipeline to Federal service through our Pathways internship programs. Our strategy for this initiative is to use direct outreach to young people and to increase our social media portfolio.
In the nearly nine months that I have been Director of OPM, I have traveled to nine colleges and universities, including Spelman College in Atlanta. My recruiting team has been to 35 campuses. This is part of our strategy to go to the people we want to join Federal service, not wait for them to come to us.
Another big part of that effort is our increased use of social media.
I am on Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. Every day we are expanding the platforms we are using. We are engaging and becoming a player in today’s digital employment marketplace. At OPM we are using Linked In and Twitter to test what recruiting strategies work best. We’re putting job descriptions in plain English. We’re using humor. We’re using graphics. So far we’ve promoted 12 OPM jobs and we’ve gotten thousands of hits. The first blog we posted on Linked In, which was aimed at attracting Millennials to Federal service, got more than 13,000 clicks.
Finally I want to talk to you about mentoring. This conference is a perfect example of the importance of networking and of reaching out to colleagues for advice and counsel.
For me, mentoring is not a feel-good kind of exercise. I see it as a responsibility for each and every one of us. We all need a mentor, and not just in the early stages of our careers. All my life, I have been lucky enough to have strong mentors who continue to advise and counsel me. They have helped guide me. They have propped me up when the stress got to me. And frankly, they have been there to tell me to get a grip when I began to feel sorry for myself.
I like to think I am paying that forward by being a mentor and a sounding board for my staff at OPM. I encourage you to do the same. You will get as much back from those you mentor as you will give. As part of the President’s Management Agenda, we are creating a Situational Mentoring Program for new SES members as well as a coaching network. We are holding mentoring sessions at Federal Executive Boards across the country. And individual agencies are stepping up their own mentoring efforts.
But mentoring doesn’t have to occur within a structured program. It can be something as simple as sharing a cup of coffee, giving someone a pat on the back or taking the time to say thank you for a job well done. We also need to make sure that our mentors turn into sponsors, advocates and cheerleaders. We all need someone to advocate on our behalf; to say you are an asset and should be considered for more responsibility, a better job. We need to use every tool in our toolkit to help us build a diverse, inclusive workforce. And having mentors and advocates in our corner is a key aspect of that strategy.
So I want to end where I began. With thanks.
Thank you to BIG for all of your efforts on behalf of African American public servants everywhere. I look forward to continuing to work with you on bringing more African Americans into the key leadership roles throughout the Federal service. I will do all I can to support you, to help you, to champion you, to make sure you have what you need to succeed. I will be singing your praises everywhere I go. I do this because I know that together, you and I will continue to make sure that the Federal service is THE model workforce for the 21st Century.
Safe travels as you all return home after such a successful conference.
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